Cancer study: brain cancer instead of leukemia is the most common fatal disease in children

Deaths from childhood leukemia are sharply on the decline
The death of a child is always a sad and terrible thing. US researchers have now found that brain cancer is responsible for most cancer deaths. The disease replaces leukemia as the most common cause of death.

Scientists at the National Center for Health Statistics (part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention; CDC) have now found that brain cancer has replaced leukemia as the leading cause of cancer death. The doctors released a press release with the results of their investigation.

Significant reduction in child deaths from leukemia
In 1999, almost a third of all deaths in patients aged 1 to 19 years old could be attributed to leukemia. Around a quarter of the deaths were caused by brain cancer at the time. By 2014, these percentages had reversed, say the experts at the National Center for Health Statistics. The results of the study are a milestone in cancer prevention, says lead author Sally Curtin. The change in the frequency of both causes of death is caused by the reduction in deaths from leukemia. But not because of an increase in brain cancer deaths.

Cancer death rates have decreased by 20 percent in recent years
Overall, the National Center for Health Statistics report showed that death rates from cancer in children and adolescents decreased by 20 percent between 1999 and 2014. And this long-term trend seems to be continuing, say the doctors.

For the first time in 2011 there were more deaths from brain cancer than from leukemia
The number of deaths from brain cancer exceeded the deaths from leukemia in 2011, Curtin says. But it wasn't until 2014 that the difference was big enough for statisticians to recognize this difference as a reliable finding.

Enormous advances in oncology are leading to fewer deaths from leukemia
The drop in deaths from leukemia is the result of tremendous advances in oncology, the scientists explain. The specialists in oncology had developed more effective chemotherapy in the past decades. For a long time, doctors have been looking for the best ways to use radiation therapy and bone marrow transplants.

Unfortunately, brain tumors are difficult to treat
Brain tumors are generally very difficult to treat. Surgeons have to be extremely careful that no healthy tissue is damaged during treatment, the doctors explain. In addition, the so-called blood-brain barrier prevents some drugs from getting into our brain.

Cancer therapies often lead to long-term cognitive complaints
Cancer therapies are very stressful and often harm the body. Surgery, radiation or chemotherapy often lead to long-term cognitive complaints and development problems in children who survive the malignant disease, the authors say. For this reason, doctors have been trying to find ways to mitigate the damage caused by cancer treatment for a long time.

Further research should focus more on fusion oncoproteins
In addition to brain cancer and leukemia, other pediatric cancers often affect bones, thyroid, soft tissue and other endocrine glands. In the future, the focus of research should be on so-called fusion oncoproteins, the doctors explain. These proteins are involved in many childhood cancers. Children should be given access to new immunotherapy drugs in further clinical trials. (as)

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